Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Scott E. Palo

Second Advisor

Marcin D. Pilinski

Third Advisor

David L. Voss


The Drag & Atmospheric Neutral Density Explorer (DANDE) is slated for launch in the first half of 2013 into a highly eccentric near polar orbit to study the neutral thermosphere. It is a 50kg ~0.45m diameter spherical payload that will attempt to make measurements of the drag forces on spacecraft in LEO between 200-400 km altitude and simultaneously sample the composition, thermal energy, and wind vector of the atmosphere. These two measurements together on a single platform will offer greater spatial and temporal detail to space weather measurements in this region on a single low-cost platform. This will be done with a sub-μg resolution accelerometer suite designed and built at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Complementary measurements by a Wind & Temperature Spectrometer (WTS) developed in part with Goddard Space Flight Center will gather information of the wind vector and atmospheric composition.

This work focuses primarily on the WTS instrument and the operational considerations levied on it through analysis of proto-flight and flight testing results. Additionally an ion optics modeling software is utilized called SIMION to take these empirical results and form a test correlated model of the instrument. The process for validation of the instrument behavior in SIMION is outlined by first identifying the performance metrics of the final instrument and running a similar testing campaign on the simulate instrument. The performance components in question are the relation the Small Deflection Energy Analyzer (SDEA) voltage to particle energy called the SDEA Plate factor observed at 3.6eV/V. The energy resolution of the system, or its ability to differentiate between selected energies and unselected energies which is ~7% of the overall sampled species. Finally for consideration is the overall selection efficiency of the instrument across an energy spectra within the SDEA chamber, lower selection efficiency will result in less overall observable particles reducing the signal to noise ratio. These metrics can then lend to operational considerations for the impending flight of DANDE.